October 29, 2011

Lean And Mean

So, like, sometimes it’s hard for me to get things done at work, and most days it’s because people are always coming up to me asking about how I manage to keep such an incredibly chiseled, trim and well-manicured physique while working 14-hour days in environments filled with steady streams of pizza and Del Taco. It’s hard to refactor Javascript when people have their hands all over your biceps all day.

Okay FINE so maybe that’s not true but I do alright for myself considering the hours I’ve kept first running my own company and now at a pre-funding startup. Inspired in part by this Quora thread  and my man Andrew Skotzko’s series of posts on fitness I felt like throwing out a couple of mostly common-sense, simple tips on how to keep it super lean and super mean, or at least to ward off the startup version of the Freshman 15 for as long as possible.

1. Convenience Over Everything

I’ve been working out on and off for like six years and at this point I feel like it’s not just a privilege but an inalienable right for me to enjoy a beautiful, clean gym filled with well-oiled equipment and mirrors and mood lighting designed to make me look like a Men’s Fitness cover model and mahogany-paneled locker rooms replete with sauna, jacuzzi and cigar lounge.

For now, though, I’m making do with the following. First, there’s the gym that’s literally directly next door to the office I work out of. The people who work there are well-meaning good folks, so I’ll try to be nice, but their one rusty flat bench was probably Jack LaLanne’s first piece of equipment ever and they played a Coldplay album front-to-back the other day. And secondly, there’s the 24-Hour Fitness three minutes from my house that’s good enough, I guess, if you like the smell of mold and you only want to work out one of your two arms since there’s only been one of each dumbbell around since probably the mid-nineties.

The thing that these two gyms have in common besides harsh flourescent lighting are that they’re so convenient to the rest of my life that I simply can’t ignore their presence. Having a gym next door to the office means I can work out literally whenever I have 45 minutes. And you can always find 45 minutes. I could work out at Equinox but trading luxury for convenience means I get there once a day, not once a week. Bonus: works great with early-stage salaries!

2. Prepare So You Don’t Have To Eat Prepared (Food)

The most effective diet I’ve ever followed is presented below in all of the detail it was presented to me when I first started it. You might need a pen and paper to capture all this:

Breakfast: 6 egg whites and oatmeal
4 daily meals: 6-8 oz. of lean meat and 12 oz. of vegetables
Eat snacks, but don’t eat snacks stupidly

It might not be the best diet ever, but it was the best diet ever for me because I didn’t have to think about it. If you don’t have the luxury of time to think and plan every meal, this is really key. Within those loose constraints was a lot of freedom, and there just isn’t a whole lot to remember. As a formerly-single guy who still sucks at cooking, I could make most of the meals with just my man George Foreman and a microwave.

The one important thing I needed to do when I was following this diet was to take a little bit of extra time to prepare myself and to have healthy meals with me all the time. Eating pre-packaged, pre-prepared food is pretty much always worse than eating something you made yourself. Even the stuff I think is good for me like deli-sliced turkey always manages to have 8 million grams of sodium or something.

Being prepared was as easy as throwing 4 chicken breasts into the George Foreman at night instead of just 1. Even though George has since taken the long walk of shame down our driveway, I still try to make more than I could possibly eat for dinner and bring it the next day. And I constantly anger co-workers by filling up the fridge with raw vegetables from Trader Joe’s. If I have the meals around, I don’t need to put in on the Chipotle order in desperation or reach for a deliciously-marketed though lacking-in-nutrition Clif Bar.

3. Be Predictable. Be Flexible.

Routine keeps me in line. If you haven’t noticed a pattern with the two things above, it’s that the less I have to think about having to work out or eat right, the better. There are enough things vying for our attention that if we don’t have to go out of our way to think about being healthy it’s just more likely to happen.

For me, that means picking a time to go to the gym and sticking to it. Picking a class (for me it’s spin class) or a sport or, if you’re the type of sick person who likes that kind of thing, a long-distance run to go on and doing it regularly.

And it also means having a little latitude with the routine at the same time. If my trainer, who I promise is at least 3 times your size and has like .01% body fat, can go to Sweet Lady Jane and eat a half a red velvet cake on Sundays then it’s totally fine for me to order a pizza and buy a bag of Flipz from 7-11 once in a while.

4. Treadmill Desk

HAHAHAHA no one really has one of these. But if you’re considering it, promise to at least try the simple, common-sense things first?